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Seattle Mayor Candidates
July 18, 2017
by William P. Meyers

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Six Who Made the Cut for the Televised Debate

I recently did some canvassing, mostly just handing out flyers, for the local Democratic Party. I had not done any work for the Democratic Party since the McGovern campaign of 1972. I've now met or at least seen many of the local political candidates at forums.

Here are my impressions, plus a recommendation for the August 1 primary.

As far as I can tell, the 6 candidates allowed in the Monday night TV debate, among the 21 on the ballot, do have the broadest support among the voters. All the candidates are progressive. Four have experience in government. The two others are important local activists. Any would be acceptable to me as Mayor. My criteria is: who will be the most effective progressive?

Before the forum I was supporting Bob Hasegawa, but I do not feel Bob did well Monday night. He seemed off his game. Then I realized he was not giving canned responses. He was essentially thinking aloud when he responded to questions. Bob is a progressive's progressive. He was an activist with Teamsters for a Democratic Union. He has been a representative or state senator in Olympia since 2005. He was a Bernie Sanders supporter. I think his concern for the homeless and the renters of Seattle is deeply-founded. He is also the oldest candidate at 64. I still intend to vote for him. Bob is popular in his legislative district, but I would now be surprised to see him do well enough in the primary to place in the top two and so go on to the general election. Bob was one of the co-endorsements for mayor by my local group, the 46th Legislative District Democrats.

The canned response leader was Jessyn Farrell. Her responses were similar to the other candidates, but she had a way of making them seem repeated from memory. Probably just a quirk. She is from my neighborhood, was our representative in Olympia, and was also endorsed by our local group. She just had arrived in Olympia, but resigned to try to become Mayor. She made a bad impression on me at an earlier forum by implying that as Seattle allows more residendial construction to deal with the housing shortage, single-family neighborhoods (her district, though part of Seattle, is essentially suburban) should be protected from apartment building. In other words NIMBY. I did like that she favors the creation of safe injection sites for junkies, even if one is in her district. But all the candidates were for creating safe injection sites. Not really ready to be mayor, in my opinion. Should have stayed in Olympia longer, or ran for City Council.

The smoothest candidate was Mike McGinn, who was already mayor once, but was defeated in the last election by our current mayor (unless he has already resigned this morning). I had to wonder if Mike just seemed the most personable because he is a white male (like me), or if having been mayor just gave him a lot of knowledge and confidence. He seemed to have an answer for every problem, but then he was mayor for 4 years already, so why do we have the problems? He was the local Sierra Club leader before becoming mayor. I'd be fine if he is elected, but I wonder if the voters will see him as a tired has-been, despite his qualifications.

The leader in the polls, and the establishment favorite, is Jenny Durkan. I've seen her in debates and talked to her a bit. She is very impressive. I think she is willing to make hard decisions. It is easy to spout liberal catch-phrases, harder to work out progressive measures in the real world. She was a defense attorney before her appointment by Barack Obama to be U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, and the first openly lesbian U.S. Attorney. She has endorsements from a lot of elected officials. If she likes being mayor she could go on to being governor or President. I may end up voting for her in the general election.

Cary Moon has strong activist credentials. If she had held any political office already, I could see supporting her. She is an urban planner. She seems really smart and balanced. She has an important local newspaper endorsement (The Stranger). I talked to her once, but I did not bring up my concern. I have been an elected official, and I found that governing was much harder that complaining about other people's governing. Of course Mike McGinn also had not climbed the political ladder, but that might be why he became such an unpopular mayor. Voters in Seattle may prefer political amateurs for mayor. Cary's main problem is that there are four women in the running, so the women's vote may be split up. If Cary and Jenny both make it into the general election, I am not sure which I would support.

Then there is Nikkita Oliver. I thought she did well at the forum. Previously I had seen her as a leftist-screamer with not much of a substantial resume. She has a law degree but appears to support herself by teaching. She is a poet and activist. She was knowledgable, intelligent, and just a little bit touchy at the forum. Maybe she would make a good mayor. I'd rather see her win a City Council or School board seat first, and show us what she can do. But she is young, and so in a hurry to storm the barracades. She is in the People's Party of Seattle. She seems to lack some of the usual campaign infrastructure, like a web page other than Facebook. She declared to the office when everyone (including Ed) thought Mayor Murray would run again, which is the main reason she became known, but she has been sinking in the polls since more credible candidates enterred the race.

There might even be a better candidate among those not invited to the TV forum.

My recommendation: think for yourself. And learn more about the problems facing Seattle, our nation, and the world. They are more complicated than you think.

William Meyers is a nationally recognized author and activist.

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